The writer of Hebrews wanted his readers to understand how deeply faith affects all of life. It is not merely something we feel in our hearts, or we talk about. It is an entire way of being, a love and a hope that permeates every aspect of our personality, character, worldview, life philosophy, priorities, decisions, choices, work, play, relationships . . . everything.
Faith is the language of our souls, it is the native tongue of our new life in Christ, the culture of heaven saturating our earthly existence.
Such a profound and permanent alteration is going to be visible to others—it is impossible to be otherwise.
Having shown how the entire trajectory of the Hebrew people was set on course by the faith of their forefathers the patriarchs, the writer now turned to the faith of their greatest leader.
Saved by Faith
The writer’s audience did not need to have Moses’ story retold—it was one they all knew by heart, the great leader who had been raised up to lead them into freedom and the Promised Land. God’s magnificent and miraculous rescue through Moses, his sister Miriam, and his brother Aaron is still commemorated every year, to this day, thousands of years later in the celebration of Passover.
However, the writer wanted to show how even in his infancy, Moses was saved through faith and God’s gracious provision.
By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.Hebrews 11:23 (NRSV)
Sanctified by Faith
Over the course of thirty-five years, after he had been weaned by his mother Jochebed and brought to live in the palace, Moses was raised as a prince of Egypt.
Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.Acts 7:22 (NRSV)
There is great debate as to Moses’ timeframe. In my own research, I have become convinced Moses’ adopted mother was Hatshepsut. If that is the case, then when Moses was about eight years old, Hatshepsut’s father died. In order to secure her position, she married her half-brother Thutmosis II, who was a sickly person, and he died four years later, leaving his son by another woman, Thutmosis III, in Hatshepsut’s care.
Since Thutmosis III was a very young child, Hatshepsut seized her opportunity to claim the throne, and she became Egypt’s most famous female pharaoh. This made Moses Thutmosis III’s rival, as Moses received all of Hatshepsut’s support and endorsement, being groomed as the next pharaoh of Egypt.
Heir to the Throne of Egypt
Moses became a powerful orator, and an accomplished man. According to ancient historians, he was well-traveled, a mighty military leader, a successful architect and builder, who enjoyed all the treasures, as well as the pleasures, that Egypt had to offer. There is tantalizing evidence that Moses was in the middle of building his tomb when he decided to go out and watch his fellow Hebrews at work. The ruins of that half-built tomb survive to this day at Deir El Bahri, in the Valley of the Kings.
Maybe, as Moses oversaw the work in the Valley of the Kings, he began to think about families, and heritage, and to dwell on his early upbringing. Moses’ parents had raised him as Hebrew, and no doubt told him about God, of God’s promises to Abraham, and his descendants, about God’s prophecy of redemption and freedom, and that this time was approaching.
They must have reminded Moses that he was no ordinary child, that he was pleasing to God, perhaps suggesting that Moses might be the very one who would raise up God’s people and free them from slavery.
Crisis of Faith
We know from scripture that this powerful, entitled prince became deeply affected one day, as he stood among the people of his ancestry.
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor.Exodus 2:11 (NRSV)
The Hebrew word used means to “look on with sympathy and real emotional involvement.” Moses found himself, in that moment, feeling deeply identified with his people.
Millennia later, the Christian martyr Stephen revealed a glimpse of what had been going on in Moses’ heart:
When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites.Acts 7:23 (NRSV)
It is possible Moses had even been drawn to the whereabouts of his family and tribe, the Levites, as he began to consider his roots. And as he watched with love and concern,
He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk.Exodus 2:11 (NRSV)
The Hebrew word here implies the Egyptian officer was beating this Hebrew slave to death.
And it is undoubtedly at this precise moment that all the pieces of his life, the longing in his heart, his unusual beginnings and unique upbringing, all fell into place for Moses; the vivid scene of an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave to death, one of Moses’ own people, and all the emotions that evoked—the righteous anger, a sense of abused justice, taking that beating personally, overflowing compassion.
Moses made a life decision that would set the course for the rest of his life.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up,
—refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
—choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
—He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,
—for he was looking ahead to the reward.Hebrews 11:24-26 (NRSV)
It was a costly decision for Moses to turn his back on all the opulence, prosperity, power, prestige, and pleasures he had enjoyed up to that moment. But he recognized that the greatest reward in this life is belonging to God, and being swept up by God’s Spirit, involved with God’s great plan for all people.
Set on Course by Faith
It is possible Moses thought he was being used by God in killing the cruel Egyptian overseer. Stephen explained that Moses
defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.Acts 7:24 (NRSV)
But the fact is, Moses had used force without being directed by God. He acted on self-will, not God’s will. He wanted to free the oppressed, but he had done it in the wrong way. Stephen described what had been going on in Moses’ mind.
He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them,Acts 7:25 (NRSV)
Moses had caught God’s vision, he had seen it all in that moment. He would not become the Pharaoh of Egypt, he would become the Pharaoh of Israel, and if he had to do it single-handedly, so be it, he had all the training and power and wealth he needed.
He could not have been more wrong! Sadly, the culmination of those events necessitated Moses’ exile.
When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian.Exodus 2:15 (NRSV)
The writer of Hebrews had an important note to add to that ancient, brief record. Moses did not flee in fear but in faith.
By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.Hebrews 11:27 (NRSV)
Servant of Faith
For all his heroic deeds, the mighty power, the larger-than-life accomplishments, for all that made Moses great, God led the writer to commemorate Israel’s most celebrated leader by his worship, for
Moses came to recognize his dependence on God.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.Hebrews 11:28 (NRSV)
When people remember you and me after we have gone, may it be for the same reasons.
 Christians of every background continued to celebrate Passover in the first century church, commemorating Jesus’ fulfillment of that Exodus by opening the way of freedom from sin, corruption, and death, and into the promise of eternal life with God.